What You Can Learn About Personal Branding from My Dog

Personal BrandingReputation Management

People who know me are often surprised when they find out I own a Rottweiler-Australian Cattle Dog mix, Mackenzie. Although you’ve probably never heard of an Australian Cattle Dog, I’m sure Rottweiler is a familiar name – probably one with which you negatively associate.

And I know everyone says this about their dogs, but Mackenzie is truly different – she’s not that dog. Unfortunately, the neighborhood we live in didn’t agree with me on that when we first got her, and some members of our community still don’t. But, Mackenzie has worked hard on her personal brand during her four years with me and my husband, and I think she’s definitely making some great headway.

Bad Reputations Are Hard, But Not Impossible, to Overcome

Just like you and me, Mackenzie has not been entirely in control of her own brand. (My husband and I have been advocates for her, of course, and she cannot escape the fact that she is 50 percent Rottweiler.) But, she’s formed great friendships with other community dogs (and kids) and earned the reputation of a peacemaker rather than a bully in a relatively short period of time.

Acknowledge the Bad Reputation and Move Beyond It

There’s no sense in denying the truth – Mackenzie is a Rottweiler mix. In fact, we originally took her home from the shelter because my husband was traveling a lot, and I didn’t like being home alone. (We had recently purchased a house in the Washington, DC area after both being born and raised in the Midwest.) So while her breed was a comfort to me at first, it started to bother me that mothers took their children to the other side of the street when Mackenzie and I were out for a walk.

We started our “Ms. Understood” campaign with dog owners, particularly owners of bigger breeds (because owners of small breeds would cross the street, too). As I think you’ll agree from the pictures of her, Mackenzie is a beautiful dog – and that point alone has often started conversations with fellow dog owners in the neighborhood about the real Mackenzie, the one Brett and I have grown to love like a member of the family.

Rottweilers, in fact, are a herding breed, which I didn’t know until we found Mackenzie. Australian Cattle Dogs are also a herding breed, so Mackenzie has a strong desire to herd everything. (Read: Herding doesn’t just mean chasing. It also means Mackenzie has a strong sense of “the law” and always intervenes when she thinks someone is being mistreated, such as the many times she’s broken up small fights at the dog park.) Rottweilers and Australian Cattle Dogs are also both in the top 10 smartest dog breeds, so Mackenzie is a bit of an overachiever in that department. And finally, her nickname at the shelter was “Snuggles.” These become our three talking points – we acknowledge her background while playing up her strengths.

Show the Side of You Others Can’t Help But Love

You used to work somewhere that has recently been exposed as unethical. Your family has a shady character or two. Chances are, we all are connected to something that can threaten our personal brand. The key is to know what that something is and show others that it doesn’t define you.

Although Mackenzie would probably sooner knock over a burglar with one of her famous hugs (she likes to stand up on her hind legs and throw her front legs around your waist), I’ve certainly never held her “Snuggles” side against her. Sure, that’s not what I was seeking at the time, but she is hands-down the best dog I’ve ever known.

Do we have to keep our sliding door locked at all times because she knows how to open it? Absolutely. Must we spell important words around her, such as W-A-L-K, because she knows way too much of the English language? Yep. But these two small examples of Mackenzie’s fantastic personality have made our “Ms. Understood” campaign so much easier. She has more to offer the world than her Rottweiler background can weigh her down.

Never Give Up

Mackenzie is the ultimate optimist – never noticing when people cross the street and constantly seeking new people and dogs to love and love her in return. And this strategy has worked quite well for her.

Children in the neighborhood now come running to her when they see my husband and I walking her. “Mackenzie!!” They can’t remember our names, but they remember hers. If only we all had traits as easy to “sell” as she does.